Cultural diplomacy, national identity and national museum: South Korea’s first overseas exhibition in the US, 1957 to 1959

Sang-hoon Jang


The exhibition Masterpieces of Korean Art, which toured 8 cities in the US from December 1957 to June 1959, was the first large-scale overseas exhibition of Korean cultural objects that the South Korean government organized. This overseas exhibition in the US was designed to secure a cultural identity for South Korea on the world stage by explaining to US citizens that Korean culture has peculiar characteristics and independence from Chinese or Japanese culture. It was in the same context that the South Korean government was trying to secure a place within the world order controlled by the US. This touring exhibition shows that, through this exhibition, the National Museum of Korea was engaged in a dual mission to both gain cultural citizenship on the world stage and, reflexively, to internalize this for internal consumption so as to consolidate a sense of Korean cultural identity at home.

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360